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Wall St flat ahead of Obama speech

Friday, November 30 16:42:29

U.S. stocks were little changed today as investors were hesitant to make big bets ahead of a statement by President Obama on the progress of budget talks in Washington that have recently driven volatility in financial markets.

U.S. President Barack Obama, visiting a factory in Pennsylvania, will press his case on raising taxes on the wealthy to narrow the deficit. He is expected to make a statement around midday that is likely to impact markets.

"There is always hope in those situations that he (Obama) is going to announce some type of positive development," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York. "We see how violently the market swings on positive and negative announcements."

Trading has been choppy as investors react to mixed statements from policymakers in Washington about discussions on averting the "fiscal cliff," spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect in the new year and could cause a recession, according to worst-case predictions.

Corporations continued to anticipate a harsher tax regime next year. Whole Foods Market Inc was the latest to announce a special cash dividend of $2.00 per share to skirt higher dividend tax rates in 2013. The stock was up 0.6 percent at $93.60.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 5.63 points, or 0.04 percent, to 13,027.45. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index dropped 0.58 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,415.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 3.43 points, or 0.11 percent, to 3,008.59.